News / Africa

Nigerian HIV/AIDS Agency Seeks Anti-Discrimination Law

Campaigners walk through a road during a charity walk on HIV/AIDS at Ebute Mata district in Nigeria's commercial capital Lagos, April 21, 2012.
Campaigners walk through a road during a charity walk on HIV/AIDS at Ebute Mata district in Nigeria's commercial capital Lagos, April 21, 2012.
Heather Murdock
ABUJA, Nigeria — Nigeria’s National Agency for the Control of AIDS has sponsored a bill that would make it a crime to discriminate against people living with HIV/AIDS. Activists say if the law is passed it will protect patients from institutionalized discrimination, but won’t immediately end the stigma that endangers many lives and livelihoods. 

Countries with Largest Number of People Living with HIV Infections


  • South Africa - 5,600,000
  • Nigeria - 3,300,000
  • India - 2,400,000
  • Kenya - 1,500,000
  • Mozambique - 1,400,000
  • Tanzania - 1,400,000
  • Zimbabwe - 1,200,000
  • Uganda - 1,200,000
  • United States - 1,200,000
  • Russia - 980,000

Source: CIA World Factbook, 2009 estimates
Nigerian activists say the most dangerous thing about HIV/AIDS stigma - the belief that someone is morally corrupted if they are HIV positive - is that it scares people away from testing centers. They say the vast majority of Nigerians don’t get tested for HIV largely because they are afraid of what will happen if they are positive.

Thaddeus Ugoh, the program officer for Human Rights Advocates for Sustainable Development, a Nigerian activist group, says in Nigeria, known HIV patients are in danger of losing jobs, educational opportunities or even their lives.

"It means that morally you are not okay," he said. "You are not fit anymore to live among normal humans. It means that you’re secluded, which is the basic reason why the test is being conducted - so that you will not be able to infect others, as they say."

Ugoh says village elders in his hometown agreed last year that if anyone was discovered to be HIV positive, the person and his or her family would be expelled from the area under the threat of being burnt alive if they returned.

Global AIDS Figures

  • People Living with HIV
    Adults - 30.1 million
    Children - 3.4 million
  • People newly infected with HIV in 2010 - 2.7 million
  • AIDS deaths in 2010 - 1.8 million

Source: WHO
This kind of extreme stigma, he says, is a result of deep-rooted cultural perceptions that can only be changed with time and education. Ugoh says a bill that protects HIV/AIDS patients from discrimination has been languishing in parliament for years. If passed, he says, the law could start to change those perceptions.

Kunle Adeniyi, the senior legal officer at the National Agency for the Control of AIDS in Abuja, says the bill will be updated to be re-presented to parliament after Nigerian delegates return from the United Nations AIDS conference in late July. He says rights groups are gaining momentum and he expects it to pass within a year, making Nigeria one of Africa's few countries with laws that specifically protect HIV/AIDS patients.

“We are hoping that when this bill is passed out of parliament and it’s signed into law by the president of the federal republic, any discrimination against people living with or affected by HIV/AIDS will be an offense," said Kunle Adeniyi.

He says crimes like firing someone known to be HIV positive, refusing them access to a school, house of worship or forcing someone to get tested could carry punishments from hundreds of thousands of dollars in fines to prison time.

Protestors demand free HIV/AIDS treatment for persons living with HIV in Abuja, Nigeria, December 5, 2005.Protestors demand free HIV/AIDS treatment for persons living with HIV in Abuja, Nigeria, December 5, 2005.
x
Protestors demand free HIV/AIDS treatment for persons living with HIV in Abuja, Nigeria, December 5, 2005.
Protestors demand free HIV/AIDS treatment for persons living with HIV in Abuja, Nigeria, December 5, 2005.
The bill also requires large public and private institutions to enact policies designed to protect people living with HIV/AIDS.
 
“If you have a workplace policy on HIV it automatically makes it your organizational policy - like your mantra - that you will not discriminate against people with HIV/AIDS. That, I find very pleasing,” said Kunle Adeniyi.

The Network of People Living With HIV/AIDS in Nigeria says 2.9 million people are known to be living with HIV in Nigeria, but 80 percent of Nigeria's more than 160 million people have not been tested. The CIA World Factbook says Nigeria has the 17th highest HIV/AIDS rate in the world.

You May Like

Philippines, Muslim Rebels Try to Salvage Peace Pact

Peace process faces major setback after botched military operation to find terrorists results in bloody gunbattle between government forces, Moro Islamic Liberation Front fighters More

Republicans Expect Long, Expensive Presidential Battle

Political strategist says eventual winner will be one who can put together strongest coalition of various conservative groups that make up Republican Party More

Video New Wheelchair Is Easier to Use, Increases Mobility

Engineers have come up with a lever-operated design that makes use of easily accessible bicycle technology More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grievingi
X
Benno Muchler
March 26, 2015 3:41 PM
Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grieving

Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Cambodian Land Grabs Threaten Traditional Communities

Indigenous communities in Cambodia's Ratanakiri province say the government’s economic land concession policy is taking away their land and traditional way of life, making many fear that their identity will soon be lost. Local authorities, though, have denied this is the case. VOA's Say Mony went to investigate and filed this report, narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video US, South Korea Conduct Joint Military Exercises

The Eighth U.S. Army Division and the Eighth Republic of Korea Mechanized Infantry Division put on a well orchestrated show of force for the media this week during their joint military training exercises in South Korea. VOA’s Seoul correspondent Brian Padden was there and reports the soldiers were well disciplined both in conducting a complex live fire exercise and in staying on message with the press.
Video

Video Space Program Status Disappoints 'Last Man on the Moon'

One of the films that drew big crowds last week at the annual South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas, tells the story of the last human being to stand on the moon, U.S. astronaut Eugene Cernan. It has been 42 years since Cernan returned from the moon and he laments that no one else has gone there since. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Young Filmmakers Shine Spotlight on Giving Back

A group of student filmmakers from across the United States joined President Barack Obama at the White House this month for the second annual White House Student Film Festival. Fifteen short films were officially selected from more than 1,500 entries by students aged 6 through 18. The filmmakers and their families then joined the president and a group of celebrities for a screening of their films. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video VOA Exclusive: Interview with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, during his first visit as president to Washington, gave a one-on-one interview with VOA Afghan Service reporter Said Suleiman Ashna, about his request for a change in U.S. troop levels, the threat from the Islamic State, and repairing relations with the United States and Pakistan. The interview was held at Blair House, late Sunday, in Pashto.
Video

Video California Science Center Tells Story of Dead Sea Scrolls

The ancient manuscripts were uncovered in the mid-20th century, and they are still yielding clues about life and religious beliefs in ancient Israel. As VOA's Mike O'Sullivan reports, an exhibit in Los Angeles shows how modern science is bringing the history of these ancient documents to life.
Video

Video Angelina Jolie Takes Another Bold Step

Hollywood actress and filmmaker Angelina Jolie has revealed she had her ovaries and fallopian tubes removed to lower her odds of getting cancer. Doctors say the huge publicity over her decision will help raise awareness about the importance of cancer screening. VOA’s George Putic has more

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More